This week marks the celebration of Chinese New Year and Burns Night (Saturday 25th) The first time the two celebrations have coincided since 1944. For such a special occasion, we thought it would be perfect timing to Meet The Artist – Sarah Kwan. Sarah’s work perfectly blends both her Scottish and Chinese heritage.
Hello Sarah, introduce yourself and let our customers know a little bit about you and your process as an artist.
Hi, I’m Sarah, I’m an Edinburgh based freelance Illustrator and sign writer – I have created my own gift ware range and I make personalised commissioned art work for clients. In terms of my process, if there’s a complicated brief, I really enjoy spending quite a bit of time first just thinking about what the concept or idea is – and just letting my imagination think about all of the intertwining connections to that concept. It’s like a really enjoyable puzzle and the solution is how to communicate all of these ideas you have in one single form! I usually enjoy first hand drawing or painting my work, and then adding to the image digitally.
* What do you love most about what you do?
I love having the freedom and opportunity to create my own work on my own terms, that’s been the dream ever since I was a child, and the fact people seem to be responding to my work in a positive way makes me very happy indeed – I’m so grateful to be where I am right now.
* What’s your favourite subject to illustrate?
This is a difficult question, because I really enjoy every challenge I get to Illustrate! If I had to choose a top three they would be: animals, people and food.
*Your new giftware and print series East Meets West is a cultural mash up of Chinese and Scottish Culture. What inspired this new collection?
I was born and raised in Scotland by Chinese family, so I always had a real mix of influences from both cultures growing up. What kicked this whole series off was when my friends were getting married and they asked me to create some illustrations for their wedding, one friend was Scottish and one was Malaysian-Chinese, and they thought I was the perfect one to help represent both sides of their new family. I wanted to share a fun and light-hearted look at the similarities between Scottish and Chinese culture, I hope that this series will encourage more intercultural projects in the future!
* This year Chinese New Year and Burns Night land on the same night. What will you be doing to Celebrate?
Well, good food is really important to our family and we have even run restaurants in the past – so Mama Kwan will be cooking up a storm this Chinese New Year! We’ll be feasting Chinese style, sharing delicious plates of Roast Duck and potatoes, Poached Chicken, King Prawns, Stir Fry Veggies and Rice. I’m dreaming about it already and I’ll be sure to share some sneak peeks on Instagram stories after dinner! @sarahkwanartist
* Where did you study and why?
I went to study at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in 2004. My high school mentors rated DJCAD very highly and I also wanted to explore another city and become more independent. It was a great choice and I ended up specialising in Fine Art Drawing and Painting and graduated with a BA Hons in 2008.
* What do you love about working and living in Edinburgh?
This city is just so beautiful, so that is a definite plus! I also love all the choices we have here in terms of great food and the opportunity to meet like minded people through awesome organisations like Creative Edinburgh. You’ve got everything at your fingertips and the pace of life is just right for me.
* What do you like to do when you escape work? Where do you take yourself for a bit of reflection?
Escaping work can be a difficult thing at times, it can be hard to switch off. When I do manage it I enjoy walks along Cramond Beach, going out for some tasty food and drink, or as boring as it sounds I enjoy going to the gym and getting those good endorphins and Jacuzzi soaks.
*Do you have a favourite Coffee Shop/Restaurant you’d recommend as a must visit when in Edinburgh?
In terms of restaurants I’d have to say that I love Tanjore, which is a South Indian Restaurant that has the most delicious curry I’ve ever tasted (it’s also BYOB which is great if you want a little drink with your meal!)
* What advice would you give your younger self?
I’d say to myself or anyone to just believe in yourself and your abilities, and if you’re not happy where you are then make a positive change sooner rather than later! You won’t regret it!
*What’s in store for Sarah in 2020? What would you like to achieve? Any new prints or accessories joining your collection?
I have a new Tea Towel design coming soon featuring my ‘Teacake Dim Sum’ design, that I’m very excited about. I’ve just brought out a NEW print called ‘Lucky Cat Sith’, that brings together Chinese Lucky Cats and the lesser known legend of the Cat Sith in Scottish mythology – it’s well worth a look! I’m planning to continue creating more in my East meets West series and I’m really hoping to find some new UK stockists this year, so I will continue to look for new outlets and opportunities.
* Who’s your favourite artist at The Red Door and what would be your top purchase?
I’d have to say that my current favourite would be Katrine Lyck, she is a talented ECA graduate who creates beautiful atmospheric etchings – I bought three of her prints myself and they have pride of place in my living room.”
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions Sarah. You can see Sarah’s full collection here.
Don’t forget to check out our Instagram to see what’s new and exciting in the gallery. You can also follow along on Sarah’s journey @sarahkwanartist.
We hope you’re Chinese New Year/Burns Night is full of fun, laughter and most importantly delicious food. Roll on the Weekend!